Evidence of meeting #8 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was notam.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Keenan  Deputy Minister, Department of Transport
Ben Girard  Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA
Marc-Yves Bertin  Director General, Marine Policy, Department of Transport
Julie Gascon  Director General, Marine Safety and Security, Department of Transport
Nicholas Robinson  Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Schiefke

Unfortunately, there's not enough time left for the answer. You'll have to wait until the next round if you want an answer, Mr. Barsalou‑Duval.

Next we have Mr. Bachrach.

Mr. Bachrach, you have six minutes. The floor is yours.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all of the officials for joining us today and answering our questions.

I have some questions for Nav Canada, but I wanted to start with a question for Mr. Bertin.

You were talking earlier about Russian exports to Canada and the various products. I understand that Canada announced a ban on the import of crude oil products, but there aren't that many Russian crude oil products, if any at all, at least recently, that have come into Canada. As you noted, other petroleum products and other oil and gas products make up a significant percentage of Canada-Russia trade. I'm wondering if you can provide us with any insights as to why the government didn't place a ban on other petroleum products? If the goal here is to put pressure on Russia and make it feel economic pain, it would seem that targeting products Russia actually trades with us would be a more effective way to do that.

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Marine Policy, Department of Transport

Marc-Yves Bertin

Unfortunately, given our remit over transportation undertakings, the issue of commodities really falls outside of our remit. It's probably a question that is best posed to Global Affairs, which leads on special economic measures. Unfortunately, I'm unable to provide you with a response to that question.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thanks. I'll direct that question elsewhere.

I have questions for Nav Canada—and some of these have been answered already—around the timing of the issue of the NOTAM and Aeroflot flight 111. I'm interested in picking up on these two subsequent flights that were diverted around Canadian airspace. For flight 111, Canadian air traffic controllers advised the pilot that the ban and sanctions were in place, yet the flight continued through our airspace.

For the subsequent two Aeroflot flights, American air traffic controllers told them to go around our airspace and they complied. If anything, I would think that the two following pilots would be emboldened by the fact that the first pilot got through. What was different in what the Americans communicated to those Aeroflot pilots?

12:35 p.m.

Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA

Ben Girard

The first thing is that I'm not necessarily privy to the conversation that there was between those pilots. I'm certainly not in a position to comment on what the pilots were thinking at the time and the reasons they did certain things.

What I can share with you is that we did exactly the same thing from a Nav Canada perspective with the two following flights that we did for the initial flight, which was to advise or request the FAA to reroute the flights around our airspace. The first pilot elected to go through, and the two other pilots elected to comply with the NOTAM and go around the airspace.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Can I assume that the difference in those circumstances will be one of the topics covered by the investigation?

March 21st, 2022 / 12:35 p.m.

Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA

Ben Girard

I would have to direct that information to Transport Canada. However, what I can share with you is that it is our belief that the investigation into Nav Canada showed that the actions were complete. It was found that we did everything in compliance with published regulations, procedures and the authority that we had at the time.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Since the incident on February 27, have there been any further attempts made by Russian aircraft to enter Canadian airspace?

12:40 p.m.

Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA

Ben Girard

There has in the sense that flight plans were deposited. To give you an idea of how many, from the publishing of the NOTAM to around March 7, there were 55 flights that were diverted around Canadian airspace at the request of Nav Canada from the adjacent ANSPs.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Prior to the airspace closure coming into force, approximately how many Russian flights passed through Canadian airspace on a daily basis?

12:40 p.m.

Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA

Ben Girard

If you take it from the numbers that I gave you from February 28 to March 7, 55 would be the number. You can divide that by the number of days.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

There are a lot of questions around the ownership structures and the registration structures, both in the application of the marine ban and the closure of our airspace. Many of the aircraft operated by Russian airlines are registered elsewhere. For instance, the aircraft used for Aeroflot flight 111 is registered, I believe, in Bermuda.

How is Nav Canada interpreting the connections to Russia in implementing this ban on flights over our airspace?

12:40 p.m.

Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA

Ben Girard

We have, as usual, very good communication with Transport Canada, and Transport Canada is the one that provides us with a lot of the information. There are some easy ones, as you could see with Aeroflot, and the Government of Canada has given us a list of aircraft that are registered in and operated from Russia.

As you point out, Nav Canada does not have the tool to identify all aspects of the NOTAM. For example, we have no information about who is sitting in the aircraft. If there are Russians who charter an aircraft that is registered somewhere else, we count on Transport Canada to provide us with that information in order to apply the NOTAM. This is something that has, in my opinion, worked very well with Transport Canada since the issuance of the NOTAM.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you, Mr. Girard.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Schiefke

Thank you very much, Mr. Bachrach.

Thank you, Mr. Girard.

The next five minutes goes to Ms. Lantsman. The floor is yours.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Melissa Lantsman Conservative Thornhill, ON

Thank you so much.

Thank you to all of the officials for making the time.

I'd like to go back to the issue of the NOTAMs. Perhaps you can clarify something for the committee. Does the issuance of the NOTAM—at the time when it's issued—signify the closure of the airspace? Is that the timing?

12:40 p.m.

Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA

Ben Girard

Can you confirm who the question is for? I would imagine that it's for me.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Melissa Lantsman Conservative Thornhill, ON

Sure.

12:40 p.m.

Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA

Ben Girard

The NOTAM is intended, as I said in my opening statement, for thousands of pilots, or whoever's in the air. They obey the NOTAMs in order to keep the airspace safe and secure. In a sense, when the NOTAM is published, it is active immediately and all pilots are required to obey it.

From a Nav Canada perspective, there's time required between when the NOTAM is published and when it is operationalized. You have to understand that this is an unprecedented action that the government took. I've personally been with company for 33 years and I have not seen anything similar to this, so these are procedures that did not exist. The aviation sector is a highly regulated sector, and it requires that we develop procedure according to a certain process and according to a regulated safety management system where we have to identify risks and determine if any mitigation is required.

In addition, at any given time, we've got hundreds of controllers sitting down in position who need to be taken off their positions and briefed on new procedure. Between the issuance of the NOTAM and its operationalization, there is time required.

To your question, as soon as the NOTAM is published, it is effective immediately, but it does take time for Nav Canada to brief controllers and operationalize the procedure, to go directly [Technical difficulty—Editor].

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Melissa Lantsman Conservative Thornhill, ON

My question is less about what happens after and more about what happens before. Is it usual that all media—mainstream media and social media—would say that the airspace is closed before the NOTAM is issued? Don't you find that confusing?

I think that's what happened in the case of February 27. We read about this as Canadians before any kind of notice was issued to airmen. My concern is, if you have to issue something quickly, in an emergency, to respond to an active threat, is NavCan prepared to do so?

12:45 p.m.

Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA

Ben Girard

I don't think it's my place to comment on whether it's confusing or not to the public at large. It was not confusing to Nav Canada what our authority was at the time and what needed to be done to operationalize the procedures.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Melissa Lantsman Conservative Thornhill, ON

In that case, it would be totally normal that Canadians at large would know about an airspace closure before any kind of notice was issued to airmen. Is that usual?

12:45 p.m.

Vice President and Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA

Ben Girard

Again, unfortunately, I have to repeat what I said. It is not my place to comment on what's usual or not usual. What I can tell you is that as soon as we got the NOTAM, we knew what we needed to do, and we worked with the government to get the proper authority to operationalize the NOTAM and implement it as quickly, as efficiently and, most importantly, as safely as possible.

12:45 p.m.

Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport

Nicholas Robinson

Mr. Chair, I wonder if I could add to that.

The notice is for the crews who are operating in and around the area that's impacted. I'll give an example. We issue NOTAMs quite frequently, such as for an incapacitated aircraft on a runway, lighting issues on another runway or potential construction on another runway. There could be many instances.

If you have an incapacitated aircraft on a runway, yes, many individuals are aware of that. They're very aware, and the NOTAM hasn't been issued yet. Individuals in that airspace are working around it. It could be reported in the media as well, and a NOTAM might follow it. It's the instrument of information to crews. The decision to issue the NOTAM has already been made behind that.

Nav Canada and Transport Canada work very quickly. We can issue NOTAMs fairly quickly. I think in this case we were speaking about the potential of issuing a NOTAM even before, earlier into the weekend, so that the system was ready if the decision was taken.

Again, the NOTAM is the notice. It's the poster to tell everyone that this action is being taken. The decision-making behind it can occur, and individuals can absolutely be aware of the notice that will be coming out, before the actual notice is available.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Schiefke

Thank you very much, Mr. Robinson, and thank you very much, Ms. Lantsman.

Ms. Koutrakis, the floor is yours. You have five minutes.